I had no idea how thoroughly my University of Georgia education prepared me for public office.
More drama in the Virginia governor’s race, this time almost entirely of Democratic candidate Terry McAuliffe’s making.
A PAC made up of Northern Virginia tech business types did interviews with McAuliffe and Republican candidate Ken Cuccinelli last week before voting on an endorsement. They chose Cuccinelli. The group has endorsed Republicans in the past, but is filled with moderate-to-liberal techies from the bluest part of the state, so McAuliffe should have been able to make a good case. It turns out he didn’t even try.
The reasoning behind the NVTC TechPAC’s nod — Cuccinelli had detailed responses to questions in candidate interviews, three board members said, while McAuliffe was uninformed and superficial — bolsters the view that the Democrat’s breezy style doesn’t sit well with some Virginians. Two of the people said they were leaning toward Cuccinelli before the interviews; one disliked both candidates.
When Tech PAC announced its endorsement— a blow to McAuliffe but one probably only political junkies would have noticed—McAuliffe’s camp threw a fit, calling in reinforcements to strong arm the group and even threaten them:
“The pressure is hot and heavy,” Dendy Young, TechPAC chairman and chief executive of McLean Capital, wrote in an e-mail to TechPAC members Sunday morning. Young wrote that he received calls Saturday from Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-Va.), Lt. Governor Bill Bolling (R) and Aneesh Chopra, the former U.S. chief technology officer and Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor. Young also said that, on the other side of the issue, Cuccinelli called him, too.
But it’s the state Democrats who kept it really classy:
But e-mails obtained by The Post make clear that the lobbying effort on McAuliffe’s behalf was intense.
“I urge you to stop any endorsement of Cuccinelli,” state Sen. Janet D. Howell (D-Fairfax), told PAC leaders Friday in an e-mail. “The ramifications of his being endorsed will be huge within the Senate Democratic caucus. . . . The response [from legislators] will be frigid and doors will be closed [when the council seeks help with its legislative agenda]. Achieving the goals of NVTC will be difficult to impossible.”
Senate Minority Leader Richard L. Saslaw (D-Fairfax) and Sen. Barbara Favola (D-Arlington) seconded those sentiments in their e-mails. In interviews, the senators said the messages should not be perceived as threats but as expressions of their frustration
Nice community of tech entrepreneurship you got there. Shame if anything should happen to it.
Now, please witness the spectacle that made Tech PAC choose Cuccinelli (as if McAuliffe’s cronied-up business flop, GreenTech weren’t reason enough). The man is a cartoon:
Cuccinelli impressed the board’s majority as a serious, detail-oriented candidate while McAuliffe seemed to wing it, according to three board members present for the interviews who spoke on the condition of anonymity to speak frankly.
“Terry was his normal, flamboyant self,” said a board member present for both interviews. “He didn’t want to get pinned down to any details. He didn’t give any details. He was all about jobs, jobs, jobs — ‘I’m just going to take care of the situation when the time comes. I’m just going to do it.’ It was all [expletive].”
Cuccinelli, by contrast, the person said, “was precise. He was thoughtful. He thought through all the issues. He had a clear position on all those issues, and he didn’t agree with the council on all the issues.”
Two people present said that in response to a question about how he’d accomplish his goals as governor, McAuliffe told the PAC board that as an Irish Catholic he’d be adept at taking people out for drinks and doing whatever it takes to get things done. McAuliffe is well known as a schmoozer, but he seemed to badly misread his methodical audience with that answer, several of those present said.
On a question about whether Virginia should stay in something called the “open-trade-secrets pact,” Cuccinelli gave a thoroughly researched response, the person said.
But McAuliffe answered, according to the source: “ ‘I don’t know what that is. I’ll have to look it up later.’ And then he turns back to the guy [who asked] and said ‘Well, what do you think we should do?’ And the guy says, ‘We want Virginia to stay in it.’ And then Terry says, ‘Okay, we will.’ ”
Read the whole thing, which also highlights and explains the curious case of Cuccinelli rival and fellow Republican Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling making his first, obvious pro-McAuliffe move.
I’m not surprised Cuccinelli was well-prepared. He’s an extremely smart and well-spoken guy who doesn’t deserve the caricature Democrats create of him (though sometimes he doesn’t work hard enough to avoid playing into it). The interaction these two had with the Tech PAC board feels like a metaphor for interactions of Republican and Democratic candidates with the media and electorate lately, particularly the Obama/Romney battle of 2012.
Flamboyant Terry is all track record of cronyism and failure, a hefty dose of arrogance, and ridiculous public statements papered over with shallow “war on women” memes. Cuccinelli is a far more competent alternative too easily caricatured by McAuliffe’s memes. In the case of the Tech PAC meeting, when the battle was fought on policy intricacies, Cuccinelli was the clear winner— please see Mitt Romney, 1st Debate. The problem is those moments don’t come along that often in modern campaigns, and they don’t reach very many voters. Tomorrow, McAuliffe will be back to the equivalent of Big Bird and Binders attacks. Luckily, his hissy fit alerted everyone to a Cuccinelli moment of strength that would otherwise have gone mostly unnoticed.
Maybe next time they’ll serve beer, Terry.